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Your #1 Source for Nashville Predators News, Updates, and Opinions – A Nashville Predators Blog

Getting Healthy for the Real Measuring Stick


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Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Nashville’s loss last night to the Pittsburgh Penguins marked the fourth defeat in the previous five games for the Predators, who seem to be stumbling a bit towards the finish line. With 8 games left to play until the playoffs start, Nashville has had their chances to get a solid hold on 4th place in the Western Conference, yet has squandered each possible chance to do so.

One of the main factors could pertain to the rising number of minor injuries that are befalling the club. While the damages aren’t enough to send a player to the injury report, the bumps and bruises are enough to hold them out of the lineup for a string of games. The two most glaring losses to the lineup have come to Paul Gaustad, and Roman Josi.

Through the month of March, Nashville has scratched a total of 12 different players at least once (whether it was due to injury or being a healthy scratch): Kevin Klein [6], Brandon Yip [4], Ryan Ellis [4], Brian McGrattan [10], Matt Halischuk [5], Jack Hillen [4], Craig Smith [2], Colin Wilson [5], Roman Josi [6], Jack Maclellan [6], Gabriel Bourque [1], and Paul Gaustad [4].

While Barry Trotz has to find the perfect balance for each of his offensive and defensive line combinations, it’s easy to say that the absence of Josi & Gaustad have definitely hurt the team.

Not known for his exciting style of defensive hockey, Roman Josi being out of the lineup has cost the Predators dearly. Since Josi’s injury, Nashville has allowed 22 goals and has gone 2-3-1 in their past 6 games. The 6 before? a 4-2-0 record while allowing 14 goals. Read that very clearly: 6 games allowing an average of 3.6 goals per compared to 6 games allowing 2.3 goals per. Josi’s loss hurts, there is no way to sugar coat that.

One of the newest additions to the team, Gaustad added his large frame and faceoff-winning ability to the lineup when he was traded here. In the 6 games he has played with the Predators (INCLUDING the San Jose game where he was injured, winning 15 of 24 faceoffs), Gaustad has won 69 of the 110 faceoffs he’s taken. That is an ABSURD 62.7% from the faceoff dot. Gaustad ranks 7th best in the NHL with a 57.5% faceoff winning percentage in 981 draws.

While Gaustad is shooting for a Saturday night return versus the Winnipeg Jets, there currently isn’t any timetable on the return of Roman Josi. Although the injury isn’t believed to be too serious, he most likely won’t play on Saturday night.

Losing those two players has been a loss for the Predators, granted, however Nashville has to right the ship and do it quickly as both Detroit and Chicago seem to have re-started their engines for the late playoff push and are getting their own wounded back in action. With Chicago winning 5 straight and Detroit on a 2-6-2 stretch in their past 10 (although they’ve played quite well in their past couple of games), Nashville has to start collecting points and doing so now if they want to secure the 4th seed in the Western Conference.

With the week to follow, however, the Predators are literally staring at the gates of Hell after finishing up on Saturday night. In a matter of 7 days, Nashville will face Chicago twice (on Sunday and Saturday), St. Louis on Tuesday, and Detroit on Thursday.

Only once before has Nashville faced 3 different Central Division teams this late in the season all in playoff positions in the Western Conference. The outcome? A 3-3-0 record and their only playoff miss in the now 7 seasons past the last lockout. Even with Nashville’s 14-3-3 record against the Central, it’s going to take every ounce of gas that is left in the regular season tank to plow through next week.

Even if the Predators were to pick up a majority of the remaining points they had left, a matchup that NO one has mentioned yet could be the possibility of a rematch of the 2010 Western Conference Quaterfinals between the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks. Although I’m not sure that would be a better avenue than facing Detroit or the Pacific Division champ in the 6th spot, a Nashville/Chicago matchup in the first round would be quite entertaining nonetheless.

However, the Predators have 8 games to get everyone healthy and figure out which lines work best. This could be the most daunting task Barry Trotz has had in his 13 seasons with the team. Trotz has never had a plethora of forwards/defenseman at his disposal like he does now. Although it’s a great problem to have the increased depth, it’s a bad problem to try and figure who to pair who with. While the top line is set and the second line is fairly close, the bottom two lines look very similar to the artwork of a 2 year old: you can’t figure out what anything is.

Can Nashville get healthy and figure out their problems before the end of the season? You have to hope so, or this “All-In” push the Predators are trying to make will all be for naught.